When I began my journey away from anger at aspects of myself and hatred of what felt so wrong about being me, I came to appreciate that just saying what I felt wasn’t really helpful. I say this, you say that, we disagree. I feel this, you feel that and we are hitting each other emotionally. I was not being fact, I was not being statement; I was being something inexpressible, I was being the emotion of self-realisation. We don’t have to go there much, do we? Life works, we sit tight. How could I say what was going on, and why it was becoming so important, so urgent? Poetry for me was a subversion of logic, the unspeakable, said with elegance, read until you realised your answers had already been undercut, and yet the playfulness of the language had strung you along. Maybe I overstate what I was doing. But I’m not so sure.
Last night I had been invited to present some of my poetry at a Polari evening at the Royal Festival Hall. No, not the big one! Just the 100-seater function room overlooking the London Eye, into which some musical performance and applause occasionally wafted. Anyhow, it took me back to my poetry collection RealIsations to select some key pieces along with some new ones. For me the book was a chapter now closed, and interesting to reopen after being left to rest.
The fears, as well as all the hopes, are long gone. I transitioned and began life exclusively as a woman seven months ago, and before that for a year, I had been doing so less and less covertly for at least three days a week. So I was recalling emotions largely dealt with, and able to appreciate the artistry I had achieved in the writing. I couldn’t just stand there and read this stuff: it was laden. But at least now I could get to the end of the poems without tearing up. I am quite new to poetry in many ways. I have written all my life, sporadically, and often wanted to read expressively to convey the intent. And so I am used to thinking about how I read, and how to carry meaning best when, at least in a lot of my work, there are many layers.
My lounge has become accustomed to dance, so without cats to embarrass, I could practice moving towards performance in my poetry. Polari is a somewhat flamboyant context, so all I knew was that this was something I desperately wanted to do, and do well. Did I? It was exciting. It was amazing. To be me as I now am, in this place, with these well-established, award-winning authors, doing this, and hitting the right buttons.
I am sure I can improve; there isn’t much one gets right first time in the creative arts, but it was such a powerful experience for me, I know I really must do this again. I loved it. This was me, reaching my best as a writer, at last, in a place where literature is appreciated, where being transsexual, if not understood, is at least recognised as an accepted minority identity. Other people might use a phrase such as ‘it blew my mind’, but I am less extravagant. It was another piece of self-understanding, that this is actually an important part of who I am.
It has taken me 24 hours so far to try and come down from the high, and I am back at work in the morning working on technical writing and operator manuals and the mechanisms of keeping them well maintained. A world away. But inside here, my heart is beating with the thrill of everyone who showed their personal appreciation of what was, to date, the performance of my life.